MASERU — “I want to know when the leader, Mr Metsing Lekhanya, will step down and give others a chance to lead.”
Those words could have been spoken by any one at the conference but coming from Lesaoana Kamolae, chairman from Lekhanya’s Mantsonyane constituency, they carried a different meaning.
True, Lekhanya had walked into hostile party conferences before but this was at a different level.
A senior delegate from his own constituency wanted him out and he was announcing it at a conference where most of the delegates had clearly come hell-bent on pushing Lekhanya out.
Probably for the first time Lekhanya realised that the forces pushing for his ouster had become so strong that that even his “own” people had turned against him.
This was the hostile mood that Lekhanya met when he walked into the conference room just after 12pm on Saturday.
The conference was ready to dispense with him as the leader.
The chairperson, ’Mapulumo Hlao, told Kamolae that he was out of order because the agenda at that time was to discuss Lekhanya’s speech.
The delegates were clearly not pleased by Hlao’s intervention.
Kamolae’s statement had captured what most of the delegates thought was the main agenda of the conference: removing Lekhanya.
“I stand here to pass a vote of no confidence on the leader, Mr Lekhanya,” he said.
He was again told he was out of order.
But this time Kamoale was not prepared to sit down yet. Not before he had blasted Lekhanya for neglecting his own constituency.
“We don’t see you in the constituency,” Kamoale said amidst a thundering applause from delegates.
“To the best of my knowledge he mentioned in the past that he will step down. When will that time come?”
By this time dozens of delegates had raised their hands to speak.
If the chairperson had hoped to douse the fire that Kamoale had torched by calling on Thesele ’Maseribane, the chairperson for Mt Moorosi constituency in Quthing, then her plan went horribly wrong.
’Maseribane was more stinging in his attack.
“The BNP is facing a crisis,” ’Maseribane said. The delegates loved it.
“This committee, led by you Mr Lekhanya, the leader, does not have contact with the people.”
’Maseribane said Lekhanya called a general conference without knowing whether there were viable committees at the constituencies.
“You do not talk to the constituencies and you do not know whether they are alive or not.
“Because you do not communicate with the constituencies you do not even know the number of BNP members. How can you complain that you have been cheated in the polls when you do not know the number of people who voted for you?”
A delegate from Hololo constituency, Dr Lehlohonolo Mosotho, decried the mass exodus of BNP members from their party to join the All Basotho Convention (ABC) which he said was a disgrace to the entire BNP.
He accused the Lekhanya-led executive committee of refusing to give members membership forms for them to recruit new members and renew their membership.
“It is because you say some people are not loyal to you and you do not give them membership forms,” Mosotho said.
“When we send people to the head office to get forms, they are rejected on the basis that they are not loyal to the leader.
“That is why our people join the ABC in great numbers. It is because they are welcomed and accepted to become members in that party.”
Mosotho said he felt angry one day when he visited the head office and found Lekhanya in the company of ABC leader Tom Thabane.
“I went back and I was very angry because the likes of Tom sit comfortably in our office when our people are rejected on the basis that they are disloyal to the leader.
“It is worrying to observe that our leader does not hold public gatherings for the party but he keeps on attending the ABC rallies,” Mosotho said.
Responding to the accusations, Lekhanya argued that he had been holding public gatherings.
He also said it was not his sole responsibility nor that of the executive committee to ensure that the constituency committees were viable but the responsibility of the constituencies themselves.
“The constituency committees do not send their reports to the head office as they used to do in the past,” Lekhanya said.
“It is not my responsibility alone or the responsibility of the executive committee alone to ensure that the committees in the constituencies report,” he said.
“You no longer send reports,” retorted Lekhanya who was now counter accusing.
“If in your opinion I am not fit to lead this party you can remove me. I am tired of being insulted now and again.”
The secretary general, Ranthomeng Matete, responded that the membership forms were the property of the party and were kept by him.
He said he would not give them to “just anybody who claims to have been sent by the constituency committee”.
“The forms are given to the constituency secretary and anybody who comes saying he has been sent by the secretary should provide proof,” Matete said.
Matete also admitted that he did not know the exact number of BNP members “because the constituencies have failed to report” on what is going on.
“Even in my own constituency I do not know the exact number of BNP members because my constituency does not send its report to the office.”